Spinning Playlist – March 18, 2012

Made it back from South Carolina just in time for my 9 a.m. class this morning. I think I may have surprised them when I walked in and said I’d been up since 4:30 a.m. and literally stepped off a plane an hour before class started … yet still kicked their butts 😉

So here it is, fresh off the bike … remember, the resistance numbers are based on a scale of 1-10, with 3 being a flat road and getting heavier from there. We did a lot of running (position 2) … and apparently music by David Guetta and Katy Perry … today!

Warm-up – Resistance 3-4

Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard

Building Block 1 – Start at 5, build up to 8

Starstrukk – 3oh!3 ft. Katy Perry

Wild Ones – Flo Rida ft. Sia

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

E.T. – Katy Perry ft. Kanye West

Building Block 2 – Start at 4-5, build up to 8

Turn Me On – David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj

I Can Only Imagine – David Guetta ft. Chris Brown and Lil Wayne (Great for jumps! – 8 counts)

What the Hell – Avril Lavigne

Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia

Paralyzer – Finger Eleven

Building Block 3 – Start at 4-5, build up to 9

Hold It Against Me – Britney Spears

Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon

Part of Me – Katy Perry

Without You – David Guetta ft. Usher

Criminal – Fiona Apple


A Thousand Years – Christina Perri

Nothing – The Script

What Your Group X Instructor Wishes You Knew

A lot has changed since I taught my first class, way back in 2007. It’s amazing how much you can pick up throughout the years – and I don’t mean the three or four other certifications I’ve added to my repertoire. It’s the little tips, ideas and observations you gather along the way – and many of them don’t come from continuing education … they are the lessons you learn from the people who frequent your class week after week.

That said, I absolutely love being a group fitness instructor. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I could ever imagine having. But we instructors definitely have our secrets – things you may not see during class, or know about us. Here are a few of the most common things we wish you knew:

  • There’s a lot of prep work before our time together. I took Pilates classes at least twice a week for four years before I started teaching them. I ran Piloxing choreography for months before I was comfortable enough to show it to anyone other than myself in the mirror. I’m constantly searching for new Spinning music, and I spend time every week crafting, shuffling and reworking my playlists so they have the right flow. I’m constantly researching answers to your questions, looking for more efficient ways to explain or cue an exercise.
  • I’m not always happy/healthy/perky/awake … or whatever you think I am. I am definitely not perfect. I’ve taught Spinning classes on three hours of sleep. I’ve smiled and joked through a class the day my grandfather passed away. I feel fat sometimes. I recently spent six weeks teaching on a stress reaction in my left foot (a precursor to a stress fracture, for those of you who are wondering … and no, I had never heard of it until I saw the x-rays, and yes, I would have cried had my doctor cut me off instead of telling me to cut back on the barefoot training). As the instructor said at my Piloxing certification, we have to give 150% just to get our classes to give 80%. It’s truer than you know.
  • That said … all those eyes can be a little intimidating. Being in front of 15, 25, sometimes 35 or more people is an invitation to be scrutinized. I’m going to miss a cue once in a while. I’m going to say something stupid. I have terrible balance, so I’m probably going to teeter at some point. I may joke about it … but trust me, it’s because I’m beating myself up over it.
  • Leave the phone at home. I vividly remember teaching a Spinning class during which a girl –right in front of me, nonetheless – sat and texted the entire class. First, you’re distracting yourself from what you should be doing (breathing, focusing on form, pushing yourself), and secondly, you’re a distraction to the people around you, as well. Unless you are a doctor on-call, or your wife is about to give birth any second, there is no reason why you can’t turn the technology for one hour. I leave my cell in the car – my gym time is my me (or class) time.
  • Drink up. I carry a 32 oz. water bottle pretty much everywhere. I go through at least three of them when I’m at work, and usually another one (or more) at the gym. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
  • I don’t want your germs. I’m sure the people around you don’t, either. If you’re sick – and especially if it’s something contagious, like the flu – stay home and recover. Pushing too hard when you’re under the weather will just delay getting you back to 100%.
  • Follow my lead. Why go to a class if you’re just going to do your own thing? Not only is it a distraction to the people who want to be doing what I’m doing, you could actually end up hurting yourself. There’s a reason I give modifications and options – so that every fitness level can get the level of difficulty they’re looking for. You shouldn’t be doing crunches while the rest of us are throwing punches and trying not to trip over you.
  • BREATHE! The more oxygen you have circulating through your body, the easier your exercise will feel. Never, ever hold your breath, because you could pass out – and though I am required to be certified in CPR, but I pray I never have to use it.
  • If you have a question, ask me! I love when people come up to me with questions – it tells me that not only did they like my class, they were paying attention and genuinely want to get stronger. I may not always know the answer, but if I don’t, I’ll look into it – or at least try to steer you in the right direction.

So keep these tips in mind, and keeping sharing your ideas and suggestions with me! Knowing what my classes like, what works for them, and what they don’t like is what keeps them coming back for more – even after I send them  home achy and covered in sweat.

Post-Injury Exercise: Listen to Your Body … Don’t Push It!

Last night was very exciting for me. For the first time in more than a month, I taught Piloxing as it was meant to be done – barefoot. I have what you could call an all-in, do or die, hardcore attitude when it comes to exercise, so in early February, when the nagging (okay, stabbing) pain in my left foot was still nagging after two or three weeks, I finally made an appointment to see a sports doctor. The verdict: stress reaction. Tone it down and WEAR SHOES until the pain goes away. Completely. It should be healed in another three weeks or so or it could turn into a fracture. Awesome. If he had told me to stop completely, or put me in a boot, I would have cried.

As a very active person, there’s one thing that I’ve found: getting older kind of sucks. Granted, I’m 31 and probably in the best shape of my life … but since I hit about 27, I feel like I’ve found myself plagued with one injury or another. But as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I have realized one thing – sometimes it’s not best to “work through it” (which doesn’t mean do nothing … read on), but instead to suck it up and let your body heal. It took until last year, but I finally learned my lesson regarding getting back onto the treadmill, or into the saddle, or, in my most recent case, out of my shoes.

First things first: if it still kinda, sorta, a little bit hurts, you’re still injured. I learned this after I reinjured my hip flexor for the THIRD time within the span of a year. If it was the type of injury that only one activity bothers, you still have a bunch of options. For instance, with the hip flexor and the foot, I couldn’t run – but I could still cycle or jump on an elliptical. No, it’s not the same … but it’s good cross training until you can get back to what you really want to be doing. That said: find what you can do (as long as your doctor doesn’t suggest otherwise), continue to ice or heat, stretch, and be in tune with your body.

Once you are completely pain-free, there are a few factors to keep in mind as you resume your regularly scheduled activities. Number one, start slow. This is one I have struggled with – I used to figure if I was running 5 miles two months ago, why can’t I go back to running 5 miles now? Hence the year of hip flexor injuries. Look at it as you do when starting anything new – take it slow, and build up your mileage, time, whatever you use to quantify your workouts, and work your way back to where you were over the course of a few weeks – not a few days. It’s not being weak (as I would have said in the past), it’s being SMART!

You also want to be aware of your form as you return – is your body still compensating for your injury? When my foot was still in the felt like I was being stabbed with every step stage, I could feel that my gait had changed to avoid my foot rolling out (and put pressure on the irritated bone).  That said, as you’re starting slow, survey your form. Are your knees/hips/shoulders/etc. in alignment? If they aren’t, you could still be compensating for the injury – and setting yourself up for another one.

Finally, you may have to warm up a little longer than you are used to, and you will want to be sure to actively stretch throughout, and especially at the end, of your workout. The warmer your body is before you begin your “real” workout, the less prone you’ll be to injury. Also, by taking adequate time to stretch your muscles, the more flexibility you’ll build – which will also keep you on track to stay injury free.

Like I said, it took my years to realize that you can’t go all out, all the time … especially post-injury. Take the time to let your body repair itself, come back slowly and build up at a pace at which your body is comfortable. You may not immediately be as strong or as fast or able to go as far as you had before your injury – but that’s okay. You’ll get back where you want to be!

Get Out What You Put In – Know Your Heart Rate Zones!

Are you getting out of your workout what you put into it? Seeing the results you want to see … or find yourself wondering what you’re doing wrong? It could be a matter of perceived versus actual intensity – and luckily, it’s one of the easiest factors to check, and if necessary, fix, throughout your workout. Monitoring your heart rate is one of the fastest and easiest ways to determine exactly how hard you are pushing your body throughout your workout.

The generally accepted formula for calculating heart rate is:

220-Age=Maximum Heart Rate

For example, my maximum heart rate would be 220-31=189. From here, you can calculate your zones. There are five generally accepted zones, from recovery (50-60%), up to interval/speed (90-100%), as the chart shows. Depending on your goals, you may fall into a number of zones during your workout, and throughout the week (if we went easy all the time, we’d never get anywhere … and if we went hard all the time, we’d end up burnt out and potentially injured).  I usually try to keep my heart rate during cardio around 85% (the rate at which many experts suggest for maximizing fitness and encouraging a higher overall calorie burn) – which for me is about 160 beats per minute.

One quick note … don’t obsess over staying in the “fat burning zone.” You may burn 150 calories in 30 minutes, with 120 of them being from fat … but you’re much better off working at a harder level, burning more calories – say 300 in 30 minutes – even if you’re burning less “fat calories,” because you’re still burning far more overall calories. You want to ideally spend most of your cardio time in the “Improved Fitness” zone as shown above (60-90%).

Many treadmills and ellipticals have technology that will calculate these numbers for you (and include the chart right on the interface) – all you have to do is hold on to specially designed handles for a few seconds. For the most accurate reading, I definitely suggest invest in a heart rate monitor. My trusty Polar is as much a necessary part of my gym attire as my tank and knee pants. Stay tuned – by request, there is more on these phenomenal gadgets coming soon!

Are the Foods You Eat Killing You?

I saw an interesting story on The Today Show while getting ready for work this morning, regarding a study on the connection between red meat consumption and life expectancy. Just how much of an impact are we talking? Depends on if you’re chowing down on a filet or a hot dog.

Now, let me start by saying that I’m by no means a dietician or nutritionist. Nor am I a vegan, or even a vegetarian for that matter – although if you asked my dad, he’d tell you I eat nothing but chicken and Greek yogurt. (Not true.) I’ll even admit to enjoying a nice steak a couple times a year, but as a general rule, my palate tends to agree better with something of the light/white variety (chicken, turkey, seafood).

And while I’ll agree that most research does warrant further examination – I wrote enough research studies in college to know there’s a reason they result in “findings,” not “proof” – the studies on red meat consumption do consistently find that the quality of meat – again, that filet vs. hot dog – is where the biggest impact is seen. Exactly how big of an impact? Well, the 20-year study found that not only does consistent red meat consumption lead to increased inflammation, risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it only took one serving of red meat (the size of a deck of cards – good luck finding a restaurant that serves a steak that small) to increase mortality risk over time – up to a 13% increase for unprocessed red meat, and jumping to 20% for processed red meat.

Still need more reason to step away from the hot dog? How about these numbers: mortality risk decreased when subject consumed fish (7%), poultry (14%), nuts (19%), legumes (10%), low-fat dairy (10%), and whole grains (14%).

I’m not going to go as far as to say you should give up red meat altogether, or that we should all live off of produce organically grown in our backyards (I live in an apartment, thus no backyard, and I inherited my mother’s knack for killing plants, so clearly that’s not happening anytime soon). It’s not realistic for most people.

What I will say is that it is important to be aware of the types and quality of the food we ingest each day, and how our bodies respond to them. Think about how it makes our bodies feel. Do we feel strong, energized, and healthy, or do we feel sluggish and tired? The foods we eat are the fuel that gets us through our days, and the more balanced our diets, the more efficient our bodies. I read a good analogy not too long ago – would you put low-grade gasoline into a Porche? No. So why would you put processed junk into your body? It’s the same thing.

Want to read more about this study? You can check it out here.

Pilates Principles: The Basics for a Strong, Lean Body

Pilates can have a place in everyone’s workout routine – young or old, male or female (no, Pilates is not just for women … in fact, numerous stories have been published recently involving professional football and basketball players actively participating in Pilates classes). Used for years as rehabilitation for dancers, Pilates has gained popularity in the last 10 or so years. Numerous modifications can be made to the core Pilates exercises, making it ideal for both novices and extremely conditioned athletes.

When beginning a Pilates practice (and even if you’ve been a Pilates devotee for years), focus on the following elements, all of which are the basis for a successful Pilates experience:

Breathing Pilates breath is based on deep inhalation through the nose, and forced exhalation through the mouth. Most importantly, never hold your breath!

Concentration Begin by removing distractions and mentally preparing for the upcoming work. Focus on proper movements, executed correctly – eventually you should feel as if the movements take place without subconscious thought.

Control Always focus on working with your muscles, versus allowing momentum to take you through each exercise. Maintain mental control over your movements, working slowly and with complete control.

Centering Focus on maintaining a stable core – all work should come from your center.

Flow Movements should always be executed smoothly and evenly, flowing one into the next, guided by full inhalation and complete exhalation.

Relaxation Be aware of your body – only use the correct muscles to produce each movement. Aim to reduce tension in the neck, shoulders and hips.

Most of all, remember to do what feels good for your body on any given day. You never want to force the movements – it eliminates the element of control, which takes away from the muscle work and could introduce the possibility of injury. Before long, you’ll find yourself growing leaner and stronger!

Spinning Playlist – March 11, 2012

Fresh off this morning’s class … thanks to everyone for remembering to set your clocks forward this morning and joining me for a killer ride. As always, great way to start your day and your week!

Warmup – Flat Road (3-4)

Here it Goes Again – ok go

Block #1 – Start 5, Build to 8

Hot ‘N Cold – Katy Perry

Wild Ones – Flo Rida ft. Sia

Night of Your Life – David Guetta ft. Jennifer Hudson

Hard – Rihanna ft. Young Jeezy

Block #2 – Start 4-5, Build to 9+

Drive By – Train

Love Drunk – Boys Like Girls

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

Funhouse – Pink

Find Your Love – Drake

Block #3 – Start 5, Build to 9

Higher – Taio Cruz ft. Travie McCoy

Part of Me – Katy Perry

Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia

Stronger – Kanye West


For the First Time -The Script

Love is Breaking My Heart – Josh Kelley

BONUS! Spinning Playlist – March 10, 2012

I filled in for Rachel at XSport Fitness Alexandria this morning … which means a bonus Spinning playlist this week! I’ll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled Sunday playlist – make sure you remember to Spring Forward tonight!


BONUS! Spinning Playlist – March 10, 2012


Warm-up – Flat Road (3-4)

Drive By – Train


Building Block #1 – Start at 5, Building up to 8-9

Animal – Neon Trees

We Found Love – Rihanna

Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia

Run This Town – Jay-Z ft. Kanye West and Rihanna


Building Block #2 – Start at 4, Building up to 8

Starships – Nicki Minaj

I Can Only Imagine – David Guetta ft. Chris Brown and Lil Wayne

Part of Me – Katy Perry

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

Dirrty – Christina Aguilera ft. Redman


Building Block #3 – Starting 4-5, Building up to 8

Sex On Fire – Kings of Leon

Starstrukk – 3oh!3 ft. Katy Perry

Turn Me On – David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj

Clumsy – Fergie

Desert Rose – Sting (Return to Level 7 – steady standing climb to finish)


Cooldown – Flat Road 

Someone Like You – Adele

Nothing – The Script


Happy Riding!

How Do I Get Rid of “THIS”?

Last night, I had a woman approach me with a question following my Piloxing class. “What can I do to get rid of this?” she asked, pulling on the outside of her hip. Unfortunately, I had to give her the hard truth – if there was one particular way to get rid of “this” (which, sadly, is where I, too, carry a little more than I’d like to), I would have found it by now. Trust me.

The fact is, no matter how many infomercials for crazy gadgets try to convince us otherwise, there is no way to spot reduce. That said … it is possible to shrink your, let’s call them, “sensitive” spots, but you can’t pick and choose from where fat is shed – you’re going to have to take it off from all over.  And just like anything else, it’s going to take a lot of work and sweat.

Being consistent with your cardio is going to be the first step. Focus on a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week (personally, I aim for 45-60 minutes, six days a week), ideally at a heart rate of 80-85%. Speaking of heart rate … don’t focus on the “fat burning zone” (60-70%ish) – you’ll burn more overall calories in less time when you work at a higher heart rate. (We’ll address that topic at a later date.)

Don’t forget the power of full-body resistance training – the stronger your muscles grow, the more tightened up you’ll become, and the slimmer and more toned your body will appear. And remember, muscle has higher metabolic activity than fat, which means the more muscle you have, the more calories you are burning each day, without even trying.

So, that said, continue to focus on improving your whole body. You’ll find that as you get stronger, learner and more fit, your problem areas will start to become less of a problem. Like I said, it may not be easy, but I’m a firm believer that anything worth having is worth working for!

A Few Tips for Getting Started

For most people, the hardest part of getting in shape is getting started. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into the first time I joined my college roommate for a jog one evening my junior year at Clemson – but to this day, I credit it as the beginning of my fitness journey. Everyone has to start somewhere. I remember being amazed that I’d made it a whole two miles – two miles! – and I hadn’t died in the process (clearly an improvement upon those nightmarish high school gym class jogs around the track). At the same time, I discovered two things – I didn’t hate it, and I could do it.

These are two of the most important aspects of not only beginning, but also maintaining, a successful fitness routine. There are also several other factors to consider as you get started:

  • Make a commitment. Make a standing date with yourself. Put it on your calendar if you need to, and consider it a non-negotiable meeting. My gym time is my “me time” – and it is almost always the best part of my day.
  • Do what you love. Otherwise you won’t do it. Try different things, and give them a chance, because what you end up liking may surprise you. When I first started running, I hated it. With a passion. But the better I got at it, the more I started to love what it did to my body and how it made me feel. Eventually, running snowballed into strength training. Then into Pilates and yoga. Then into Spinning. Just remember that if it’s going to work, it has to work for YOU.
  • Find a partner in crime. A gym (or walking, or yoga, or cycling) buddy will hold you accountable. You don’t want to let your friend down – and it adds a social aspect to your workout. If you become a regular in a class, the other regulars will notice when you’re missing (and so will your instructor)!
  • It’s more mental than you know. Often times, our brains talk our bodies out of reaching our true potential. I like to play the goal #1 vs. goal #2 game. It goes something like this: I tell myself I’ll run until I hit 3 miles, or 27 minutes, whichever comes last. By the time you hit that second goal, more often than not, you’ll find yourself making a second bet with yourself … and tacking on a few (or sometimes a lot) more minutes in the process.

Most of all, take it one step at a time. Start slow, and build up gradually – people often get so excited that they burn themselves out, or worse yet, end up injured, because they take on too much, too soon. Never be afraid to hire a trainer, or ask your instructor questions. We want to help you succeed!